Sunday, April 8, 2012

Fear

Fear has always been a part of my life.  I'm not a risk-taker or a thrill-seeker.  I'm anxious.  I'm a worrier.  

While worry and anxiety have always been a part of my life (literally, from childhood), fear really planted roots in my heart in October 2007.

I met Megan Harms the summer before my senior year of high school.  Her family had recently moved to the area, and her parents had contacted our church's youth pastor and asked for someone to reach out to their kids.  My youth pastor called me and asked me to step waaaaaay out of my comfort zone and go to the Harms' house to invite their oldest daughter to youth group.

Megan did come to youth group, and we became friends at church and school.  We had an economics class together, and it was in this class that Megan met Brian Henneberg.  A couple years later, Megan joined me at Olivet Nazarene University for our last 2 years of college.  We both became engaged, and I attended her wedding as she married Brian (she also attended my wedding).  

Megan and Brian moved to Tennesee so she could accept a nursing position at Vanderbilt.  I got busy having a billion kids, and we made time for phone calls here and there and lunch together when she came back for visits.  

In 2007 I had become pregnant with our middle child, Griffin, and that pregnancy proved to be one of the most trying times of my life.  Megan supported me in prayer, but she also honestly spoke to me about how she longed for children of her own.

My pregnancy was so difficult from the very beginning, and I felt like there wasn't one day of joy or excitement.  Then a friend of mine threw me a baby shower (a baby "sprinkle"), and I saw this as my chance to finally have just one day that was about excitedly anticipating my baby.  

When I returned home from my baby shower, I was in the middle of telling my husband all about it when he received a phone call.  He started behaving strangely and took the call to another room.  When he got off the phone and returned to me, he was flushed and shaky.  He told me that my brother had called him to tell me that Megan had been murdered.

In the years that have passed since Megan's death, I have learned very little about how and why her life ended.  I know that she endured unspeakable pain that left gruesome, blatant evidence for investigators.  I know that Brian was immediately charged with First Degree Murder, and a jury took very little time to convict him.  I know that I lost a friend.

My list of questions instantly grew so much longer than the list of known facts.  Megan's death triggered the spiritually darkest time of my life.  I have shared with many people that the middle of my pregnancy with Griffin was the darkest time of my life.  It was the hardest part of our marriage, and it was the most suffering I have endured.  But I still held tight to God during that time.  However, the first couple of years after Megan died, I stripped away years of the relationship I had built with God.  I questioned everything about him, and I let him know that I didn't think he did a very good job taking care of his daughter.

I spent many nights crying to Jared and telling him (again) that I didn't understand why God would allow this horrendous thing to happen to Megan.  Her coworkers talked about what an amazing witness she was.  The Megan I knew was someone I looked up to as a Christian.  She was a child of God, a servant of God, and I felt that he had forsaken her.  

I remember Jared telling me about amazing people in the Bible who had served God with their lives and then died in heinous ways.  John the Baptist was beheaded.  Peter was crucified, and many accounts say he was crucified upside-down.  The list of Christians dying in painful and undignified ways is long.  After all this time, the thing I've learned from this discussion is that death does not mean the same thing to God as it does to us.  I look at the pain and suffering endured, but God sees a child coming home.  I had to relearn this lesson when my grandmother, who was my Christian role model, did not die in the peaceful, magical way that I thought she would.  Death does not look the same from Heaven as it does from Earth.

Another conversation that stuck with me took place with my Dad in the weeks just after Megan's death.  I was having trouble shaking my thoughts about Megan's final moments on Earth.  I told my dad that I just couldn't stop thinking about what Megan must have thought as she saw someone she loved taking her life.  My dad's response was that whatever she experienced, no matter how terrifying or awful, she wasn't experiencing it anymore.  I needed to hear that.  I was stuck in a day, a moment.  But Megan wasn't.

This idea came up again when I read The Shack.  I don't want to spoil anything, but I'll just say that God spoke to the father (the main character) about how he had been with the man's daughter when she was killed.  I read those words and applied them to Megan.  I have to believe that God held her through those terrifying moments and carried her to a place where there is no pain.

Through years of struggling, praying, searching, and various experiences, God and I have rebuilt our relationship.  He has answered a few of my questions and helped me to stop asking the others.  It took a lot longer than I expected, but I'm so thankful that God didn't give up on me when I was so unsure about him.  

Through all the years since October 2007, I have struggled with fear.  The big question in my heart, the one I'm not supposed to ask as someone who has been a Christian for 20 years, is:  How can I trust God to protect me and my family when he didn't protect Megan?  To be honest, this question still lingers at times.

I am so blessed.  Seriously.  Other than my recent health issues, everything in my life is going well.  So well that sometimes I worry that it's about to come crashing down.  That's fear.  I have given God my life.  I want to serve him and honor him.  Even though I have surrendered myself to him, sometimes the fear creeps in and temps me.  I have to constantly work through a mental battlefield of obstacles to try to find my way back to a place of trust.  Trust that his will is better than mine.  Trust that he sees and knows what's happening in my life.  Trust that if things don't go the way I want them to, it's God's plan.

I have a new thought to add to all of this, but this is already the longest post in blog history.  I can't help it.  I'm long-winded in both conversation and typing.  I just have a burning desire to share my experiences, even to the point of being painfully vulnerable, in the hopes that it will help someone else.  If you made it to the end of this very long post, whoever you are, please know that God loves you more than you know.

P.S.  You can read what I added here.

One more thing:  Click here to read about the day that God helped me release Megan back into his hands and fully trust him again.

Jessica 

7 comments:

  1. Jessica. Thank you for articulating what my wife and I have been thinking for many years. We had just come off "the road" touring churches as a Christian couple in mid-2006 and, deciding to settle down in Nashville, we met Brian & Megan at church one Sunday. Hearing that we were staying at an efficiency suite until we found a suitable place, they immediately offered us their spare bedroom. We stayed with them for a week and were close acquaintances for the remainder of our time at the church. We heard about Megan's death shortly after we lost regular contact with the Hennebergs. We are still shocked by this - even years later. It never truly leaves you. So, thank you for this post. It has calmed me and made me feel more.... human ...again. Much peace to you and your family. L Tulk

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    1. It seriously means so much to me to know that sharing my story helped you. Megan certainly was an exceptional woman, and I'm so glad that God chose to let me know her. It's impossible for me to imagine someone taking someone else's life, so it's REALLY unthinkable that it could happen to someone I know. I have so many unanswered questions. God has helped me to understand what I can and trust him with what I can't understand. Thank you so much for commenting. Somehow, it helps me whenever I get to talk to people who knew Megan. Praying God's peace for you and your wife!

      Jessica

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  2. Jessica, thank you for writing this. I too knew Megan from ONU. I got to know Brian as Megan & I began better friends. I went to her wedding & her viewing. I was so sad when I learned the news of her death. She was always there for me when & strong faith. Did Brian get convicted guilty for her murder? I tried for awhile to keeps tabs on the case but had a hard time finding anything. Until today when I find your post. I would love to hear more of what evolved after from the event.

    Thank you, Stephanie

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    1. Hello Stephanie! It's wonderful to hear from a fellow friend of Megan. I would love to talk to you more directly to answer your questions, but your comment is set as "no reply" so I'm not able to email you directly. I hope you come back her to see my reply!

      Yes, Brian was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.

      The thing is: God is greater than even something this horrific and unthinkable. Oh, how I long for conversations with Megan, hugs, her smile. But I know that I know that she is living in peace with our Heavenly Father. So my prayers are for her family (and friends) who are left with hearts aching for her. And because God has worked on my heart for all these years, I also pray for Brian. The forgiveness that God has lavished on me is offered to ALL people.

      If you want to read about the day that God helped me fully release Megan into his hands, please read my blog post entitled "Release." http://thealmostperfectionist.blogspot.com/2012/04/release.html

      Thank you for reading and for commenting Stephanie!

      Jessica

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  3. Hello. My name is Kim, and I was a close friend of Meg's, and a co-worker of hers at Vanderbilt. I am now the adoptive Mommy of her cat, Ti.

    I have had a long struggle with learning to walk in forgiveness. Prayer has helped, time has helped, and so has your blog. I miss Meg with an ache that never completely goes away. But I also know that Meg would be the first one to march over, put that index finger in the middle of my chest and say, "Kimmy, if *I* can forgive him, *you* can find a way." So I pushed until I found a way to walk that path.

    Thank you for your postings. It's so lovely to read about her from someone who knew her before I did. Bright blessings.

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  4. I just have to say thank you. I went to school with Megan at ONU. She took me under her wing and helped me with a few of my nursing classes since she was a year ahead of me. She lived right next door to me the year she got engaged to Brian, and I can vividly remember her banging on my door to tell me the news the minute she got back to the dorm. I love remembering her with that smile across her face.
    I was unable to attend any of the services after her passing because I didn't receive a phone call about it until 2 days after the funeral . It was so hard for a long time, not being able to put closer on that loss. She was such a wonderful person, and she got me through many hard nights of tears, frustrations, and fear.
    I don't know what made me look online tonight to see if there was anything new on the case. I haven't looked since the conviction really. I read more tonight about details that I wish I didn't know. My stomach and my heart just ache and time I think about the whole thing.
    I read all 3 of your posts, and I thank you for allowing the Spirit speak through you in a way that can reach others. I have always thought of what she must have been going through in those last moments, and that thought made things so much harder. After reading your post, I have a new perspective. I don't believe that God made her go through that alone. I know that he was there with her, and that she never has to feel pain again. Thank you for helping to take a little bit of the ache away from my heart. May God continue to heal all those that were close to both Megan and Brian, and any other person going through something similar. Thank you for your healing words of encouragement.

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  5. I was acquainted with Megan's parents for many years until their move to Morton, and Megan was my son's babysitter for several years in STL area, and my then wife and I attended her wedding. Suffice it to say I still think of Megan on occasion.. and the sorrow of her senseless death is tempered by the memory of was a kind and truly good person she was... to all who knew her. She made the world a better place in the brief time she was with us. Thank you for sharing this.

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